Graham & Lyndsay O’Rourke – BCAC
Graham & Lyndsay O’Rourke
BC Wine Maker

Graham and Lyndsay O’Rourke are the passionate owners behind Tightrope Winery. Read their profile below to hear about how they are committed to growing grapes and producing wine with an emphasis on sustainability.

Tell us about Tightrope Winery.

Graham and Lyndsay: We have two estate vineyards located on the beautiful Naramata Bench, just outside of Penticton, BC. In total there are almost 7.5 hectares (18.5 acres) of vines which produce around 50 tons of grapes each year. We grow 10 varietals, including Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Each of us has an important role in the business, with Graham focusing on the viticulture (grape growing) and Lyndsay in charge of the winemaking.

What are some of the ways that you focus on sustainability in your vineyard and winery?

G&L: Sustainability is a big focus for us, and we are always striving to improve our own actions; after all, “sustainability is a path, not a destination”. We care deeply about the environment and want to do our part to create a balanced, healthy ecosystem for our grapes to thrive.

Almost 10 years ago Graham teamed up with some like-minded individuals to create Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia whose purpose is to define sustainability for wineries and vineyards and regulate them. Tightrope Winery was the first certified winery and vineyard under the new Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia program. This certification includes developing plans to protect natural ecosystems, reduce soil erosion, improving soil fertility and using integrated pest management. At Tightrope, we use no insecticides or herbicides in the vineyard. We even built a bat house that currently is home to 35 bats that help us control our insect population. Cover crops between the rows help us to ensure a diverse local ecology and our crop waste is composted to use as fertilizer and add nutrients back into the soil.

In the winery, we focus on minimal intervention winemaking with no additives and minimal use of sulphur. As well, we have solar panels which are used to power the winery.

Is there any technology that helps you to manage your vineyard?

Throughout the vineyard, we have weather and moisture stations which provide us with up-to-date information. In the hot, dry climate of the Okanagan we must irrigate (monitored drip irrigation). But the moisture stations, paired with an irrigation plan really helps us to use water in a responsible way.

How about the social side of sustainability, and caring for the people in and around your business?

They are like family! Our employees typically stay with us for a long time, as we try to nurture their skills and personal development. We have an extensive health and safety and training program to ensure they have the tools and skills needed to do their jobs safely.

What do you love most about working in agriculture?

Every day is a new day! Nature provides an ever-changing set of circumstances that we must observe and adapt to. The seasonal cycle of farming constantly challenges us to be better and evolve with it.